By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
GROVE CITY —
People who work full time, as well as retirees, benefited this holiday season from the Grove City Community Food Pantry.
“They are wonderful. I have no idea where I’d be (without the pantry),” said Linda Atwell, 63, a retired grandmother.
“It helps when you have six in a family,” added Tina Blake, 27, who works full time as a dietary aide at a local nursing home. Four of her six children live at home with her husband, who is disabled.
The women were among clients from all walks of life who arrived Friday and Saturday at the North Center Street food pantry. Awaiting them was a basic holiday meal – which also included a choice of a ham or a turkey. The pantry also gave away toys, coats, hats, gloves and scarves – and its adjacent store, Thrifty Threads, had a half-off sale.
“The food pantry is so important for people who don’t have much,” said volunteer Ed Palmer.
Palmer dressed up like Santa to pass out toys for the children and hear their wish lists.
“The kids get so excited about these toys. Some are new but most are (used and) cleaned up,” Palmer said. Traci Turner, director, noted the pantry had been “collecting toys all year long.”
Some of the children “are real serious and tell you what they want,” added volunteer Ida Wimbush, who played Mrs. Claus.
Several coat drives were held in the community prior to the distribution day, Turner said. For instance, the high school had a drive that yielded about 16 coats on Thursday.
Click Chiropractic had an ongoing drive that brought in about 100 coats, Turner added.
Grove City College “did a coat drive and warm clothing, like sweatshirts, sweaters, mittens and gloves. We got a whole truckload,” she said.
Grace United Methodist Church in Grove City – which formerly housed the pantry – gave a monetary donation to buy coats, Traci said. However, the various drives around town were so successful, the pantry will hold onto the money to use “as needed,” she noted.
An end-of-semester food drive at GCC also brought in extra non-perishable food items from students not wanting to take them home.
“We inherited Oodles of Noodles,” Turner said, laughing. “For teenage kids; latchkey kids, it’s the easiest meal in the world, along with mac and cheese.”
Farmers had donated squash at the end of this year’s harvest, which was kept in a cold storage area at the back of the pantry to donate to clients who wanted them. “We give them recipes of what to do with them,” Turner said.
Grove City American Legion members again distributed the hams and turkeys from a box truck outside the pantry.
The weather was balmier – although wet – for the Christmas distribution than it was for the Thanksgiving one, when the men stood outside all day in freezing weather, Turner said. The members didn’t complain, because they felt it was an easier setup for guests to grab their meat as a final item on their way home, she stated. The pantry has a similar distribution set up for Easter, Turner noted.
In all, about 30 volunteers made the Christmas distribution happen and about 300 clients expected to show up for the meal. “We have about 590 families registered (at the pantry),” Turner said.
The Christmas distribution number was up from about 240 last year, she noted. “It has increased this year for sure.”
Volunteering “is a great thing to do,” Wimbush said.
“I just like giving back for what the community gave me for 70 years. It’s a great town to live in. People care about each other,” Palmer added. “Traci and the volunteers do a fantastic job.”
“I’m so pleased and proud of them here. It think it’s great,” said Atwell, who receives food from the pantry once a month. The agency also helped her granddaughter find a way to pay a heating bill so she could be warm, she noted.
“I thank everyone who helps out,” Blake added.
Even with two incomes, her family still needs help paying their bills – and the food pantry eases that burden, she said. Blake came to the distribution with her youngest child, Holly, 3.
“We’re celebrating Christmas a day early this year,” she added. “I have to work on Christmas Day.”
Published Dec. 24, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.